Commerce readies contract for broadband grant support

The Commerce Department intends to award a contract by June 30 to obtain assistance in distributing the $4.7 billion in economic stimulus law funds devoted to broadband expansion, according to a planning document published May 15.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration posted a plan and a schedule showing how it intends to spend the stimulus funding on the Web site.

The federal government will provide $350 million to implement the Broadband Data Improvement Act and develop and maintain a broadband inventory map. About $250 million is available for programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services, and $200 million is available for increasing public computer capacity, including at community colleges and public libraries. Some funding will also be given to the Federal Communications Commission to create a national broadband strategy.

NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program “will provide grant support to enable consumers in unserved and underserved areas of the United States to access broadband services,” the plan states.

The target date for awarding a contract for grants program support is June 30.

The agency also intends to publish a notice of funds availability in June and conduct initial proposal processing and review from September to December, with initial grant awards made in December. A second solicitation of proposals will be made from October to December, and a third solicitation will occur from April to June 2010. All awards must be made by September 2010.

According to the plan, quarterly reports will be posted on highlighting job creation, the expansion of broadband coverage to underserved areas, high-speed broadband coverage to strategic institutions and encouragement of private broadband investments.